Why the Sacramento Kings are shopping the No. 13 pick after nearly trading for Alex Caruso (2024)

Why the Sacramento Kings are shopping the No. 13 pick after nearly trading for Alex Caruso (1)

By Anthony Slater and Sam Amick

Jun 24, 2024

The final, fatal night of a briefer-than-expected Sacramento Kings season had a side benefit to the heartache. It delivered the Kings an extra bit of valuable roster-building ammunition this week.

Had the Kings won their Play-In game in New Orleans, advancing into the eighth seed to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, their lottery-protected first-rounder would’ve been in Atlanta as part of the 2022 Kevin Huerter deal. But since they lost to the Pelicans, ending their season, the Kings kept the protected pick, slated 13th overall in Wednesday night’s draft.

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The Kings already tried to use it for a significant roster upgrade. They were close to a trade for defensive ace Alex Caruso last week, according to league sources, offering the No. 13 pick to Chicago as the key chip. The Bulls, to the surprise of many within the league, instead opted to send Caruso to Oklahoma City for Josh Giddey.

League sources say the Kings have shuffled several late lottery-level prospects through their facility in recent weeks, including Zach Edey, the 7-foot-4 National Player of the Year who could theoretically offer a level of rim protection the Kings have been lacking.

But it’s difficult to slot any traditional center in a lineup next to Domantas Sabonis and — in the bigger picture — there’s more of an internal appetite to add veteran help to a win-now situation as opposed to a rookie. That’s why the 13th pick remains very available in trade talks heading into the draft, according to league sources, along with the necessary cap filler and even extra picks for the right player.

Sacramento’s most pressing offseason business is already done. Head coach Mike Brown agreed to an extension earlier this month, and Malik Monk turned down a chance to get bigger per year money on the open market, accepting the Kings’ max offer of four years, $78 million to stay put, keeping Sacramento’s core intact. Monk, the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year, has expressed a desire to start long term but signed back with the Kings without any assurances on his exact role next season, league sources said.

Monk’s choice to commit so early came with a significant advantage, allowing the Kings to turn their full attention to the significant upgrade they are seeking. The vision, in its most optimistic state, is to maximize what they believe is a three-to-six year winning window around De’Aaron Fox, Sabonis, Monk and Keegan Murray by landing an early to mid-prime player who can grow with the core.

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Fox’s future looms in the background too, as league sources say the All-Star guard has decided not to sign an extension this year, in part, because he wants to see how the roster takes shape for the long-haul. Fox, who has two seasons left on his current deal, wants to win at the highest level and could also qualify for a significantly larger max if he makes All-NBA.

The Kings have been close on deals in the past but ultimately come up empty-handed. Caruso is the latest. Pascal Siakam might be the most significant. The Kings were close to a Siakam deal at the past trade deadline, but they ultimately lost out to Indiana when the Pacers paired the two-time All-Star with former King Tyrese Haliburton en route to an Eastern Conference finals run.

The move would have been a calculated risk for the Kings, as there were strong signs at the time Siakam would not re-sign with Sacramento if he had come. Still, league sources say there is some lingering regret internally about the what-might-have-been-move and the question of whether the Kings could have convinced Siakam to stay.

Back in July 2021, still in his first year as general manager, Monte McNair attempted to trade Buddy Hield for Kyle Kuzma in a deal that Kings officials believed at the time was all but done. The Los Angeles Lakers pivoted at the last minute and sent Kuzma as part of a package to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook.

Ever since, McNair and the Kings have maintained a varying level of interest in trading for Kuzma, which has picked back up to some degree this summer. Kuzma has an appealing contract. He is under control for the next three seasons at an affordable and declining rate: $23.5 million, $21.4 million, $19.4 million, attached to a trade kicker that would add $3 million each season unless Kuzma waives it.

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He remains a name to watch for the Kings heading into the week. Zach LaVine has been rumored, and league sources confirm Sacramento has some level of interest, but he would arrive with a tricky contract situation. LaVine has three years and $137.8 left on his current deal, a perhaps unpalatable number considering the Kings’ growing financial picture. Any deal on this front, league sources said, would likely involve the Kings needing to be incentivized to take on LaVine’s massive deal.

As pressure rises to advance further in the playoffs, everyone is getting more expensive. Sabonis’ contract rises from $29.3 million to $40-plus million for the next four years, Murray is a summer away from extension eligibility and Fox, desiring an aggressive win-now approach, eventually has a lucrative decision to make. The entire equation makes the Kings a team to watch entering transaction season in the NBA.

(Photo of Kuzma and Monk: Patrick Smith /Getty Images)

Why the Sacramento Kings are shopping the No. 13 pick after nearly trading for Alex Caruso (2024)
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